Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

Quarry to Reservoir Questions

During closed meetings between the Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) and the Kerr County Commissioner’s, the possibility of converting the Martin Marietta gravel pit on Highway 27 to a water reservoir has been discussed. On February 8, 2016, the Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously to complete the application for state loans to study the project’s feasibility. Commissioner Letz noted, “We have to go $250,00.” If approved, principal and interest will be deferred for eight years after which the county will budget annually to pay off the loan.

Mike Mecke, a Kerrville resident and retired water specialist with Texas A&M University offers the following alternative and comment. Frances Lovett

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February 9, 2016

County: why is the County spending approx. $125,000 of our tax money on a proposal to convert old MM pits into water holding ponds? Where and what makes that part of the Kerr County Commissioner's Court mission and budget? Or even UGRA’s? They are not water purveyors [yet?]. Such an action would potentially save MM hundreds of thousands by taking real property restoration out of the “plan” and make them good guys by donating the pits to hold water for...............? maybe Kerrville [uphill pipeline], Center Point, even Kendall County/Comfort? or other not yet public plans? As a retired natural resources manager and water specialist, I can say that normally gravel and sand pits are the least likely sites to hold water - leak like sieves. And the engineers could go down to the Kerr County USDA offices and get a county soil survey on aerial photo maps and find out what soil materials are in the pit and the area quickly and for free, plus the NRCS would come out and do and on-site review most likely- also free. Both of those water permit desiring agencies should have copies of that Kerr County Soils book on their desk if they are not totally asleep. Almost every county in the USA now has that mapping expertise along with engineering and other advice for each soil found it each county. On many counties, the survey can now be found on-line as well........ courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), US Dept. of Agriculture. Located across Water Street from our CITY Library, which we county taxpayers can use if we pay and annual fee - but, that is another issue.

If UGRA and the County still insist they need a Quarter of a Million Dollar engineering analysis of the site to tell them a good, mining grade liner will be needed to hold water in those MM pits, then some good public explanations need to be made to all of us dummies out in the county. And then, explain why are these pits the best option - in these locations, losing what NRCS guys? maybe 8 to 10 feet of water a year to evaporation and subject to damage from floods and infusion of flood waters.

I disagree with one answer given in the last meeting that the pit(s) are NOT in the Guadalupe River floodplain. If not, we would not have the rich, deep and easily minable gravel on those sites - laid down by the river and previous floods. I bet the 100 yr. floodplain is up to Hwy. 27 or even on the northside of it. So, publish the floodplain maps too and quit dodging good questions with vague or no answers such as at the Public Meeting. I have never heard upper level managers of such a highly reputable, national company claim to know so little about their issue and their local business operation? Very strange.

Mike Mecke

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Martin Marietta in Kerr County and Texas


Letters to the Editor continue the accurate listing of the negatives of the new Martin Marietta gravel mine - outside of a dozen jobs and some taxes paid by MM there are few positives. And those jobs may not be nearly as desirable or beneficial to Kerrville as the potential harm to the airport business community and surrounding housing developments. Maybe the paychecks do not even stay in Kerr County - a lot of things down TX 27 seem to be sliding or being pushed towards the Comfort and Kendall County economy. Yet, local politicos keep voting for these projects? Good to see our Chamber finally speaking out and taking a strong and logical position against this particular site - not MM, but the location they chose.

Sand and gravel mining in Texas is likely a lot more profitable than in other states which have good state laws and regulations regulating sites, operations, community welfare, environmental protections and, importantly, a state agency that enforces the letter and the spirit of laws protecting our waters, air, land, wildlife, neighbors and the business community. Until Texas legislators stand up and pass such laws we will continue to be the profitable target of both local and out of state projects taking full advantage of weak or non-existent laws and enforcement.

WE have to push our Texas senators and representatives to do their job to protect Texas for the future - not just for immediate profits and election donations. Be involved in the present election of our new state Senator - after they are elected, it is hard to remove any of them. Get it right now. Our beautiful Guadalupe River, the Kerrville valley and the watershed all need our oversight and involvement or soon it may not be the attractive town and county we now enjoy.

Mike Mecke

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​Martin Marietta Quarry Fact Sheet

  • As per the resolution by Kerr County, quarries are detrimental to the environment - air, water, noise, landscape, and can impact property values in a negative way.
  • Kerr County says Martin Marietta (MM) has a positive impact on economy. Kerr Central Appraisal District (KCAD) has the valuation of their current property in Center Point at $1,837 million in 2003. During the years between 2005 and 2008 it increased to a peak value of $3,486 million. By 2015 it had declined to a valuation of $1,692 million. There is no sales tax revenue collected locally on their product. Obviously, the property value has declined to below what it was valued when they purchased it in 2002; approximately $150,000 lower and trending downward. This is standard for the industry (to lower their property values), and has been verified.
  • The current Kerrville property was purchased for approximately $5 million in Dec. 2014, about 13 months ago. Obviously, there is a great disparity between the 2015 appraisal valuation and the market sales price; KCAD should adjust the appraised value to reflect the correct market value. There was a For Sale sign on this property. It does not appear to have been listed in MLS prior to the sale, so it must have been a private transaction. KCAD has access to MLS data but would not be obtainable if a private transaction.
  • Why is MM moving forward when they have publicly stated they want to visit with the citizens, and annexation is in process? Annexation is a standard practice with municipalities. We have knowledge of a company similar to MM which has had property annexed, while in operations in 2015, and another site is currently in annexation in another town. This municipal action will freeze their work. There is a social and moral responsibility to stop when the County has passed a resolution, the City is annexing the land, the Chamber of Commerce is considering making a stand against it, adjacent neighbors and businesses have expressed their scorn for this operation. There is a high school within 400 ft. of this site, the Guadalupe River as a water source borders the property, and the airport has air traffic 200 ft. over the site. This, obviously, is not an appropriate place for a quarry. They knew they would be up against a fight when they bought a property within the ETJ. The photo on the back of this information shows what the property in Center Point looks like after being mined.
  • The MM representative stated at the January 12th City council meeting they are regulated by TCEQ. TCEQ has stated they are only required to inspect this type operation once every three years, unless there are complaints. The MM Center Point operation is not inspected by TCEQ, but MM has been approved for self-regulation. The last inspection was in June, 2014, by MM and not TCEQ. I have spoken to representatives of TCEQ in San Antonio on the telephone and have been impressed with their responses and taking notes to respond to questions. I was told this (Split Rock) property was not inspected, nor was it required to be prior to issuing the permit to MM.
  • Mining of this type is probably one of the least regulated industries. As a real estate developer, I would have to go through more regulation to increase property values and enhance the property versus destroying it.
  • Can the TCEQ permit be rescinded? If so, how and why? We need details. Has TCEQ ever rescinded similar permits before?
  • Will MM get a permit for mining in the flood zone area and a rock crusher similar to their current site down the road at Center Point?
  • How much money in materials will MM see out of this site? How long will the mine be at this site, if approved? The application shows 194 acres results in 227,000 tons of gravel. What else will be mined and sold from this site?
  • 227,000 tons of gravel is equivalent to 17,000 dump truck loads.
  • 1 acre dug to a depth of 20 feet is 32,000 cubic yards of material
  • 175 acres quarried to a depth of 20 feet is 5,600,000 cubic yards of material, or 700,000 dump truck loads
  • Does MM have any pending lawsuits? Has MM ever been found to be in violation of any TCEQ rules?
  • How many quarries does the San Antonio region have? Approximately 200. How many TCEQ inspectors for storm water runoff? Only 1.
  • Does TCEQ have permit restrictions when a quarry site is located within 1,000 feet of structures, such as schools, homes, or a major river?
  • Reputable businesses should be socially responsible in the community. Clearly, MM is not wanted this close to our town, residents, schools, businesses, airport and river. It is time to act like a reputable company.
  • Lastly, the 6 to 10 jobs they create is not a large impact to this community when you compare with what James Avery Jeweler (360), Fox Tank (60+), Our Lady of the Hills High School (20+) and Mooney International (55+) bring to the immediate area, and all are in the city limits.

Trevor Hyde

President, Comanche Trace

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Quarry Questions

Martin Marietta Hwy 27

Recent travelers along Highway 27, between Lions Camp and Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, observed the incremental crafting of a beautiful, although mysterious, limestone and wrought iron fence. The impressive pillars provide a boundary between the highway right-of-way and an open field to the south.

The barrier clearly signals a new tenant for the acreage. Possibilities and speculation abound. Will there be a school, park, shopping center, perhaps a housing development? What will fit into the plot’s surrounding community of single-family dwellings, a high school, and the Guadalupe River?

My forty-five years of traveling past this Hill Country real estate were initially rewarded with the pleasantness of a cattle pasture, then an apple orchard, followed by a vegetable farm and finally today’s open field. On one memorable drive past the site my preschooler excitedly pointed to a grove of trees along the fence line, “Look, Mamma, look, the man painted his tree red.” Fall colors flourished but one hackberry dominated with every leaf a brilliant red.

Now we learn that a quarry will emerge behind the fence. New mysteries await answers. How will adjacent homeowners adjust to the deafening heavy equipment noises? Will the mine operate around the clock, on weekends and holidays? How much dust will this mining endeavor add to the air? Four established gravel mines located within a mile and a half radius have poor records of dust control. Will anyone monitor the increasing concentration of dust and its effects upon asthmatics, the elderly and immature lungs of school children? Two of these mining operations, as well as the new quarry, are owned by Martin Marietta of the Lockheed Martin conglomerate. Can we expect better citizenship with their move into this populated area?

Where will the huge amounts of water required for gravel washing come from? Will anyone know the kind or amount of contaminants carried in the site’s runoff into the river, i.e. machinery oils, gas, chemicals and water from their washing operations? Will highway safety be compromised as gravel trucks rumble through the gate on this narrow stretch of Highway 27, especially motorists traveling eastward and descending the hill at the fence’s origin?

Landscaping and berms are planned to buffer the quarry activity from highway traffic. Does this mean our grandchildren’s only view will be from Google Earth? Will they see an extending moonscape of quarries which already dominate this section of the innocent Guadalupe? Will Martin Marietta restore the open pit when mining is complete? They do so in other states where remediation is mandated.

Where do we go for answers?

Frances Lovett

Comments

Wheatcraft

Center Point citizens have become aware of another attempt by Wheatcraft gravel mining operations to obtain a permanent rock and cement crushing permit for their HW 27 quarry site. The mining operator originally applied for such a permit in 2006. Indeed the rock crusher construction had begun without a permit but the Wheatcraft owners were forced to dismantle the structure when a knowledgeable neighbor requested a TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) investigation.

During the subsequent permit application process citizens organized into GREAT (Guadalupe River Environmental Action Team) and opposed the approval of the application. Wheatcraft already had the gravel surface mining operation in full production. The mined area along the Guadalupe River banks had become barren with the riparian area stripped of vegetation and only a few cypress trees remaining. The large amount of water being pumped from the Guadalupe for the gravel washing process was evident with a noticeable decrease in flow below the Wheatcraft river pump. Holding ponds required to contain runoff from the gravel washing process were not up to TCEQ standards and required revision.

GREAT members called attention to the health hazards posed by a rock crusher at the Hwy 27 location. Concerns were voiced over airborne particulates posing a health threat to the nearby Center Point school children and the high concentration of frail elderly. Prevailing winds could carry the contaminates several miles from the site.

If granted a cement crushing permit the old cement would be arriving from distant locations with unknown makeup and a high likliehood of toxic material content including silicone, lead, mercury and asbestos. Particulates from these toxic materials could produce an even greater health threat including cancer, skin and lung disease.

Over a period of months GREAT established its tax free status by aligning with the Texas Rivers Protection Association, hired legal council, prepared for the local TCEQ hearing and began maneuvering the legal system. Wheatcraft withdrew their application immediately before a court hearing after errors in their application had been revealed.

In the interim 5 years Wheatcraft has continued the surface mining of the entire highway 27 site with the results visible from Highway 27. Previous farmland, grazing and wildlife areas have been destroyed. There are no plans for restoration. This previously quiet pristine section of the river has been deserted by recreational tourists. Fishermen, floaters and paddlers prefer to avoid the dust, noise and barren riverfront. Wheatcraft has pumped huge amounts of aquifer water for their gravel washing operations in the area of the county at greatest risk for dry wells.

In 2008 Wheatcraft began operating a temporary cement and rock crushing operation. They have now applied to TCEQ for a permanent permit. GREAT members and local citizens met on Nov. 1, 2011 in opposition to Wheatcraft's application for a permanent permit. Concerns were expressed over air quality, river contamination at the site, contaminants settling in surrounding soil and runoff into the river.

The public can comment on the Wheatcraft application and request a local hearing. The communication must arrive at TCEQ before Nov. 17, 2011.

Download your comment form here. Fill it out and send it to the link below.

Below is the link to go online to send in your form:
http://www.tceq.texas.gov/about/comments.html

Below is the link to go online to see the facility site map for Wheatcraft:
http://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/hb610/index.html?lat=29.9436&lng=99.0183&zoom=13&type=r

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